Constructing a Refuge for Healthcare Staff: Insulfoam’s Geofoam Backs Plaza Renovation
The University of Utah, bound by mountain ranges and the city of Salt Lake City, offers one of the nation’s top academic health care systems. The college’s Health Business Services Building (BSB), the system’s primary administration office, houses 1,400 board-certified physicians and more than 5,000 support staff.
On the perimeter of the BSB, building occupants can find a large 33,000 sq. ft. plaza intended for outdoor lunch breaks or a healthy dose of Vitamin D on sunny days. However, one could hardly consider the plaza’s old, haggard landscape to be a welcome refuge for the building’s hardworking inhabitants. To better serve doctors and staff, the University of Utah sought out locally operated TSA Architects to completely redesign the open-air space. The architectural firm was tasked with creating a multi-functional outdoor square that included a variety of seating configurations, a bus stop for health care professionals to use, drought tolerant landscaping and natural shade elements. However, engineering such an elaborate landscape design in a timely manner would prove difficult, considering the inherent constraints of a downtown jobsite.
Tracy Stocking, managing partner at TSA Architects, was challenged to source a cost-effective building material that would quickly bring the project to life. To meet this test, Stocking elected to use 8045 lb/ft3 of expanded polystyrene (EPS) Geofoam (GF) by Insulfoam as a high-performing structural void fill.
Jason Wood, Insulfoam Territory Sales Manager explained further: “The project’s design team elected to use our InsulFoam® GF because it’s a fantastic alternative to traditional concrete or soil fill for construction projects like the BSB plaza renovation. Its ultra-lightweight, customizable structure supports overall cost-savings for the project’s bottom line.”
Wood continued: “To quantify the savings, think about this: you can conquer just as much fill space on the jobsite with one flatbed of InsulFoam GF as you can with 12 trucks of traditional fill material. Our product sings to the ‘do more with less’ philosophy, and it lends to dramatic savings when you examine the cost of transportation, labor and materials.”
In addition to reducing project costs, InsulFoam GF’s lightweight nature proved to be a major advantage to crews charged with transporting material to the chaotic downtown drop off point. To their benefit, blocks of InsulFoam GF are typically available in densities ranging from roughly 0.70 to 2.85 lb/ft3. With such lightweight cargo, crews were able to unload the flatbed truck quickly and then carry the material to the physical jobsite with ease. Other void fill materials, such as soil (approximately 120 lb/ft3), would require heavier equipment to move the material.
InsulFoam GF’s unique customization capabilities also enabled the design team to turn a blueprint blanketed in shapes, curves, and multi-level steps into a reality. Manufacturers typically make the geosynthetic foam blocks to match job-specific size and density requirements. But, for jobs like the BSB plaza renovation that need to accommodate intricate landscape elements, workers can modify InsulFoam GF on site with specialized hot wire cutters.
As an engineered product, manufacturers can further customize InsulFoam GF to offer enhanced compressive strength, with values ranging from about 317 to 2,678 pounds per square foot. Reinforced with this support system, a layer of InsulFoam GF will reduce the stress on underlying subgrades, offering improved stability against bearing and slope failures. And, because the material inherently disperses the load evenly across a surface, it minimizes post-construction settling.
The plaza’s ultra-lightweight, customizable structural void fill material not only provided cost-savings to the bottom line, but also brought the renovation to completion quickly and efficiently. After just seven months of construction, the University of Utah Health BSB outdoor plaza reopened to the facility’s occupants.
The once unimaginative terrain was superseded by a multi-purpose outdoor space with intricate landscaping elements, a covered bus stop and a multitude of seating arrangements for tired feet to kick back and relax on. With the help of InsulFoam GF, the university’s medical professionals are able to enjoy a purposeful and engaging outdoor oasis for many seasons to come. Go Utes!
- 127 500 East, Salt Lake City, Utah (University of Utah Health Business Services Building)
- General Contractor: Northridge GC
- Architect: TSA Architects
- Building Owner: University of Utah
- Waterproofing: Utah Tile and Roofing
- 7 months
- 66 lb/ft3 of InsulFoam GF at 6.5”, 12”, 13”, 42.5”, 55-89”